Local families under pressure with uncertain economy

Countless families are hoping congressional leaders deliver a Covid-19 relief package in time for the holidays, including a mom in Kirkland.

"If they don’t extend it, then a lot of us are going to be without funds at all," said Cherise Vines. "Then the holidays coming up. My kids are used to Christmas and stuff like that, so this year we have to limit."

Vines has three children and another baby on the way. She was working at the shipyard in Everett until she was laid off in late September. Currently she’s relying on food stamps, rental assistance and unemployment benefits.

Lawmakers have been back and forth for months in negotiations over how much should be in the next round of stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits.

"A little bit of help is better than nothing. They just need to come to an agreement and think about us and get something out to the people before the holiday and the year ends," said Vines.

Jacob Vigdor is a professor of public policy and governance at the University of Washington. He said a challenge with a relief package like the current one being negotiated, is deciding whether to get the money out fast to everyone or carefully to people who really need it, which is going to take longer to figure out.

Vigdor said a stimulus check worth $600 to individuals could go a long way.

"For some people it’s going to make a tremendous difference. The pandemic is causing a lot of job loss, unemployment, a lot of difficulty for small business owners. That $600 could make the difference between eating and not eating for some families," said Vigdor.

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On the week ending on December 12, $145 million was paid out to 300,225 people in Washington state, according to the Employment Security Department.

Poverty is growing as the community faces higher levels of food insecurity, and anecdotally public health officials have noted the increase in the homeless population.

Not to mention, the "dark winter" ahead. When looking at employment patterns in Washington State, Vigdor said the period between January and March is the toughest.

"We have a lot of businesses that ramp up their hiring for the holidays, but then once the holidays are over, they ramp back down again and then the weather is cold, we don’t get a lot of daylight and the consumers don’t really start coming out again until spring," said Vigdor. "One of the saving graces of 2020, if you want to call it that, is that the coronavirus hit us at the end of winter. So we didn’t have to go through that, January and February, with all these businesses shut down."

Vigdor said getting families the assistance they need is not only going to be a tough job, but also a very important one in the coming weeks.

Lawmakers have until Friday at midnight to finalize the $900 billion relief deal.